The Latest News in Conservation

A Passion for Score

Passion for big game and big game hunting is a good thing. This passion is what drove the recovery of big game populations in North America, including whitetail deer, from dismal to thriving. It is the basis of the conscience choice people, sportsmen in particular, have made to make sure wildlife remains with us and is not engulfed in the sea of human development. It is also why we have a surplus of game today to hunt and still have public support for recreational hunting. Though when this passion swings too far into allegations of a conspiracy of persecuting one deer it's time to hit "re-set" and step back and look at the bigger picture. Such has been the case with the Johnny King buck taken in 2006 in Grant Co., Wisconsin.

The King Buck, at first glance, is clearly a magnificent trophy and appears to be a typical.

When it comes to score, everyone wants the highest number possible because it commonly represents a personal measurement of achievement. To the Boone and Crockett Club, the foremost reason for maintaining its system of record keeping is as an indicator of the health of the wildlife and its habitat.

Boone and Crockett scores are an indicator of overall population health quantified by the evaluation of a secondary sex characteristic (antler and horn growth) in a random sample of mature animals (fair chase taken or picked-up trophies). The idea behind basing a score on these secondary traits is that they are maximized under ideal conditions – age, stress free living, and optimal habitat. The better the conditions, the larger the antlers they exhibit.

Boone and Crockett Club and state, federal, and tribal wildlife professionals are concerned with monitoring the overall wellbeing of public wildlife through our records database. The original purpose of records keeping in the early 1900s was to document the quickly diminishing herds of big game, assuming that many might go extinct. The foresight and actions of the Club’s founders and other conservationists changed the fate of wildlife. Today, we are reaping the rewards of their efforts with wildlife for everyone’s enjoyment and surpluses of big game, upland birds, and waterfowl that sportsmen hunt.

Fortunately, the original purpose of documenting species that were in danger of extinction is currently not of concern, though the records database of big game has evolved to fill a new need. There is no other data set that encompasses wildlife from such a broad scale or that can be considered when assessing the state of the continent's overall wildlife successes or failures. The key component to this system’s overall accuracy and success is support from sportsmen and sportswomen in assuring a large enough sample of the trophies taken are entered.

Most Typical
When the originators of Boone and Crockett Club's scoring system came together to develop a system for measuring big game, they applied basic biology. Collecting biological data was one of the original intents of big game records keeping. The most common antler configuration for each deer species was used as the template to define "typical." Under Boone and Crockett Club's scoring system, those typical trophies that grew the largest racks displaying massiveness and symmetry scored and ranked the highest. Massiveness and symmetry are traits indicating the healthiest and most mature, naturally occurring specimens of big game, especially whitetail deer. Today these characteristics are still evaluated by wildlife professionals as possible indicators to problems since many abnormalities can arise from stresses the particular trophy may be exposed too.

Had this philosophy of most typical not been used from the beginning, there would undoubtedly be disagreements over bucks with abnormal points ranking higher in the typical category over those without abnormal points. To account for, recognize, and rank bucks with a number of abnormal points, the non-typical category was created. The science is still emerging today on what all the possible causes of these abnormalities are. Regardless of whether a buck is typical or non-typical, the data is collected for conservation based science and personal use.

Point Designation
The issue being played out in the media about the Johnny King buck is the so-called "incorrect" designation of an abnormal point on the right antler that lowers the final typical score significantly below what some claim should be the new World’s Record typical whitetail.

Abnormal points come in all shapes and sizes and grow from many different locations on a whitetail rack. Some, like drop tines and forked brow tines or eye guards, are very easy to identify as abnormal. In some cases it can be more difficult to identify what may look like a normal point, but is actually an abnormal point. This may all seem to be slicing things pretty thin, but rules and standards must apply or the entire process becomes random, and therefore useless. Undoubtedly, someone is going to be either pleased or disappointed with the outcome.

Upon closer observation, however, it is clear an abnormal point exists between the G2 and G3 points on the right antler. The baseline of the normal points is delineated in black and the baseline of the abnormal point in red.

The first consideration when assigning a projection a normal or abnormal point designation is whether it is an expression of the typical form of the species. Normal points (on whitetail deer) arise from the top of the main beam at roughly spaced intervals and are usually paired with similar length points on the other antler, in a more or less symmetrical pattern. While this is a rather loose definition of a typical whitetail buck it does not mean that all projections that arise from the top of the main beam are normal. It is stating that the first consideration is that they are matched to a roughly correlating tine on the opposite main beam and arise on the top of the beam. Points that do not meet these two stipulations are classified as abnormal. The next consideration is where they come off the top of the main beam. In rare cases, certain racks will display side-by-side rows of points. When this happens, the inside row of points are normally considered the abnormal points. Certain racks may have only 1 point that arises from the top inside edge of the main beam. If so, it must be considered abnormal.

Another commonly seen scenario is determining whether a point arises from a point, automatically making it abnormal if that is the case, or if it truly is arising from the main beam and has webbing between. This is referred to as a common base point. These points must display some separation from each other in order to be considered separate points.. To be considered normal, common base points must display a figure-8 (or peanut shape) in cross-section where they arise from the top of the main beam. The figure-8 shape does not automatically qualify both points as normal points. The figure-8 can be identifiable, but if both points are not aligned with the outside edge of the main beam, at least one point, if not both, must be considered abnormal. These are the two rules that identify the point on the King buck as abnormal (Figs. 1 & 2).

It is a very rare situation where both common base points are normal. On the King buck, the right G2 has been ruled normal, the projection on the anterior edge of the G2 is not a G3 and does not have a common base point; it is an abnormal point because its base comes out of the webbing where the G2 point meets the main beam. As a result, the tine on the opposite side that roughly correlates is thus an unmatched non-symmetry point and is therefore an abnormal point. This moves the total of the lengths of both these tines to the difference column, dropping its typical Boone and Crockett Score to 180 points. With this change, it makes more sense to enter this deer as a non-typical at a score of roughly 217 points. However, this deer should end up being ranked among the top non-typicals of all-time from the book-dominating state of Wisconsin. It is a world-class trophy without a doubt, but not a World’s Record typical.

These are just a few considerations that are taken into account when a rack is being recorded for entry. Boone and Crockett Club’s scoring system rewards both typical and non-typical forms of each deer species by having separate typical and non-typical categories.

Another angle of the King Buck.

The system successfully polices abnormalities that may otherwise cause an artificially inflated score in both of these categories through our long established scoring procedure.

More than just a listing in a book
Boone and Crockett Club’s records are a public record of native North American big game trophy animals, which are used in many different ways. To the individual hunter, B&C score and ranking is a matter of pride and accomplishment. To wildlife professionals it is a tool for tracking both successes and failures in herd management. For private landowners applying habitat and game management programs to their land it is an annual yardstick of the fruits of their labor. To the Boone and Crockett Club, big game records are all of these, plus a registry of trophies taken in fair chase. The system, while built to provide something for everyone concerned, will never be 100-percent pleasing to everyone. Altering it to make one person, or one group happy, will ultimately upset someone on the other side. Even other records programs not related to hunting trophies where personal recognition is involved are incapable of unanimous acceptance.

If you are fortunate enough to see a Boone and Crockett caliber trophy, or even put your tag on one, the real question should not be what he would have scored if he had matching normal G3s or a longer mainbeam. The question we should all be asking ourselves is how that deer got there in the first place and how do we can make sure there is a good chance another one will be there to take his place the next time we go out.